Questions & Answers

What is Super House?

Super House is the world’s most advanced and user-friendly book on ideal home design. It allows anyone, regardless of background, to design a home that is far superior to the conventional homes that are available today. It covers all kinds of residential housing, including single- and multi-family houses, townhouses, and apartments.

Super House also gives you the guidance you need to make the best possible renovations and additions to an existing dwelling.

And, for making repairs, you will learn how to select the best materials, equipment, and methods.

What topics does it cover?

Super House covers every aspect of a home that affects your comfort, safety, health, and energy costs – and everything else that will make your home the pleasure that you dream about. Click Table of Contents to see how Super House organizes every step of your design. Click Index to search every topic in the book.

How is Super House organized?

Super House organizes your home design into Eight Steps. Click Table of Contents to see the Eight Steps and the topics covered under each Step.

Each of the Eight Steps covers a separate part of your design, enabling you to progress in easy stages. You get just the information you need at each phase of your design, at just the right time.

The design sequence is structured so that you can pause at any point, and come back later to continue where you left off.

A bonus supplement, titled “Energy for Pioneers,” explains energy sources and technologies that Super House does not recommend for most homes, but which may be appealing to more adventurous homeowners.

Is it easy to use?

Yes. Super House is designed for everyone. It is a conversation between you and the author. The Eight Steps are color coded for easy flipping. Selection Guides show you how to select the best components for your home, such as windows and doors. Worksheets give you step-by-step guidance through critical design procedures, such as comparing the real costs of different energy sources. Sidebars explain interesting topics, such as how heat pumps work. Everything is illustrated with real-world examples.

Is Super House just for novice home designers?

Super House was written to allow anyone to design an ideal home, without requiring prior knowledge of home design or construction.

At the same time, Super House advances the state of the art of home construction with many innovations and with a critical look at current construction practices that need improvement. This makes Super House an important resource for design and construction professionals. And, it is an ideal textbook for students of architecture and the construction trades.

Henry Borger, the former head of the Federal Construction Council of the National Academy of Sciences, says “Written as a step-by-step guide for novice home designers, Super House is also an invaluable information source for architects, contractors, and code officials. It has the potential to radically improve home construction worldwide.”

Is Super House for design or construction?

Super House is explicitly for home design, not for construction. With Super House, any motivated individual can design an ideal home within a reasonable amount of time, at little cost. On the other hand, home construction requires many specialized skills, experience, expensive equipment, lots of labor, and physical fitness.

You need to be the designer of your home to satisfy all your desires. But, leave the construction to those who have the necessary skills and equipment to build your home quickly and economically, according to your design.

Super House includes an illustrated primer on home construction that will enable you to communicate effectively with your builder, and especially to explain the innovative features of your design. You will learn the critical construction details that make the difference between a conventional home and a super-home.

Communication between you and your builder is important. Super House tells you how to select your builder, how to write a good construction contract, and how to convey your design to your builder with a professionally prepared set of construction drawings.

If you are one of the few who have the skills and circumstances to build a home yourself, you will find that Super House is the missing element that enables you to build a home that is superior to the best custom homes that are being built today.

How is Super House design different from conventional home design?

Super House design is based almost entirely on the use of conventional materials and construction methods. For this reason, a good custom homebuilder can reliably execute a Super House design with little additional cost, and without risk.

What makes a super-home different are (1) major innovations in energy efficiency, structural strength, comfort, and health; (2) selecting the best of contemporary construction practices, while avoiding and correcting defects in current practice; and (3) conveniences and luxuries that are generally free or inexpensive.

The first innovation that you will encounter in Super House is a fundamental improvement to architectural design. Instead of starting with a particular stylistic concept, your design will begin with a complete tally of all the features that you want. From this tally, you will design the individual rooms to optimize those features. The interior layout and the exterior shape will flow from the room designs. Only then, the architectural style will be the beautiful wrapping on the package.

Some of the innovations are proven construction advances that have not yet received the attention that they deserve. Super-insulation is one of the most important of these. And, others are recent improvements to technology, such as heat pumps that can operate much better in colder climates.

Exploiting and controlling sunlight is a vital aspect of home design that has been completely neglected in Western architecture. This is so important that Step 2 is devoted entirely to it, yielding a host of benefits, including greatly reduced heating and cooling costs.

Super House introduces tandem windows, which cut window heat loss by more than half. A new task lighting layout provides a revolutionary improvement in lighting quality. Interior wall insulation enhances fire safety. And much more.

A prime example of using contemporary building practices more effectively is improving the design of foundations. Super House explains the design features that yield a super-strong foundation with a minimum of materials cost.

Split-system heat pumps offer a major improvement in energy efficiency and comfort, compared to other common kinds of heating and air conditioning systems, but they must be selected and installed properly. Super House alerts you to the critical points.

Contemporary construction has serious weaknesses that can cause trouble ranging from wall cracks to roof collapse to mildew infestation. Super House ferrets out these weaknesses, yielding a home that remains intact for centuries.

Super House introduces conveniences that make even a modest home luxurious at little or no additional cost. Examples are minimizing the delay in getting hot water to faucets, and placing electrical outlets at a convenient height above the floor. Many other such details enhance the daily pleasures of living in your home.

Home design involves a lot of technical issues. How can a lay person understand them?

Each subject starts with the basics. For example, to select the right kinds of insulation for your home, Super House begins with an explanation of what “insulation” means and how it works.

Super House makes a clear distinction between design and construction. Your job is design, and Super House enables you to become a skilled home designer. On the other hand, it’s not your job to become a builder. You don’t have to know everything that builders know, but you should be able to communicate with them effectively. Super House gives you the background to do that.

Does Super House emphasize energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency is the prime unifying theme. Super House pushes energy efficiency to the practical limit, making your home radically more efficient than typical contemporary housing. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, the former sustainability sage of Congress, described author Donald Wulfinghoff as “the world’s expert on efficiency in buildings.”

You can expect to save at least 80% of the heating and cooling costs of typical houses being built today. That’s “super” efficiency! For much of the year, your home will be comfortable without any heating or air conditioning. Your energy costs for water heating, lighting, and appliances will also be greatly reduced.

Does super-efficiency require a home to be uncomfortable or unattractive?

Just the opposite. Super House achieves super-efficiency without compromising any other desirable features of your home. In fact, the book shows how to use super-efficient design to enhance comfort, the strength and durability of the structure, and indoor air quality. Almost any architectural style is adaptable to super-efficiency.

It’s true that many houses designed for energy efficiency in the past were unattractive and uncomfortable. But, that is completely avoidable. You don’t need straw bale walls or a sod roof or a wind turbine in your backyard. Super House achieves super-efficiency with conventional materials and construction methods, without burdening you with expensive or troublesome technology.

Does Super House cover renewable resources?

Yes, at length. It covers solar energy, wind, geothermal heat pumps, “zero energy” houses, and other sustainable technologies. Super House explains their advantages and shortcomings, where to use them, and where to avoid them.

Super House provides an extensive guide to heating with firewood, including all the options for wood burning in locations where it may make sense.

How does Super House deal with environmental issues?

Homes are the largest consumers of energy in the world. Using energy causes the most serious environmental dangers, including greenhouse gases, harm to the earth’s ozone layer, and pollution of the environment by mercury and other toxins. Energy conservation is the only reliable way to control these threats, and Super House is the most authoritative guide to energy conservation in homes.

Super House also protects your indoor environment. You will learn how to completely prevent mold and mildew damage. Your selection of heating and air conditioning equipment will prevent the growth of organisms that cause allergies and disease. Your design will eliminate the danger of carbon monoxide. Your home’s structure will protect your family from formaldehyde and other harmful emissions from building materials.

Does Super House cover water conservation?

Yes. Step 5 covers the design of your home’s water systems, showing how to conserve water everywhere possible. Super House also explains rainwater recovery and reclaiming household wastewater for situations where these may be desirable.

I don’t have confidence that I can design a home by myself. Can I get assistance in designing my home or renovation?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to go it alone. Super House was written for people like you. In addition to guiding you easily through the design of your home, it tells you how to tap the knowledge of design and construction professionals.

It gets even better. In addition to getting advice from experts about conventional home design and construction, you may soon have the assistance of design counselors and homebuilders who are specially qualified in the innovative methods of Super House.

At the time Super House is introduced, Energy Institute Press is also launching a certification program for architects, design counselors, and builders who pass a thorough examination about Super House principles. Those who qualify for Super House Certification will be listed in a directory of certified professionals on this Web site. Click here for the Directory of Certified Contractors and Design Counselors.

How long will it take me to design the ideal home for my family?

It depends on the features that you want and the time that you have available. You can design a pleasant bungalow in a few months. A grand mansion may take a year or longer.

You can start and stop as your time permits, creating your design progressively.

The most important decision is to get started! Start designing now, so that you will be ready to build when your circumstances permit.

Does Super House help me to make routine repairs, such as upgrading my windows?

Yes. Super House optimizes every component and design feature of your home. The same principles apply when you need to replace or repair individual components.

Super House includes special Selection Guides and comparison charts for windows, skylights, exterior doors, roof surfaces, trees and shrubs, programmable thermostats, and other components that have important selection issues. These aids enable you to select the best equipment and materials, and to avoid unnecessary spending for features that are not important.

How big is the book?

It has 704 pages, 8½’ by 11” format, with a reinforced soft cover for pleasant handling. It is the most complete book on ideal, innovative home design.

Is it illustrated?

Yes. Super House has 620 illustrations, including hundreds of photographs of home design enhancements, from beautiful exterior decoration to proper equipment installation. Clear diagrams make the most advanced construction concepts easy to understand, and show the details that you need to discuss with your builder. Every illustration is captioned to highlight the important points.

The entire book is in glorious color, including the illustrations, Worksheets, Checklists, and sidebars. Click Look Inside the Book  to view an extensive selection of the actual pages.

How much does Super House cost?

$59.95.

For perspective, this is about one hundredth of one percent of the cost of a new home today. And, it is about one tenth of one percent of the fee that architects typically charge for contemporary home designs.

Super House will pay for itself the first time you use it, whether you are designing a new home, renovating an existing home, planning an addition, making repairs, or just buying an appliance.

And, Super House makes a great gift for anyone who is planning to move to a new home or to renovate a home, or is just dreaming about having an ideal home.